The following post is based on a true story. Some details have been withheld and names have been changed to respect the privacy of the subject.
“Money grubbing corporations,” she uttered with a slightly raised fist as she raged against modern corporate capitalism. Her anger was palpable making her appear larger than her mere 5 feet. Her graying hair softly bounced from side to side as her body communicated her disgust that someone would dare want to profit from her life’s work.
Mrs. Teague had been dedicated to her profession for nearly half a century. She had years of research and information meticulously cataloged in PDF files. She wanted to develop a website and provide the information “to the people” for free. Many organizations in her industry would have gladly taken her research and offered it to their millions of buyers and subscribers but Mrs. Teague refused, knowing they would sell rather than give away the information.
I listened politely, nodding at the appropriate moments. The years faded away as she talked and I pictured her as a young woman with long dark hair with beads around her neck protesting against an evil government. I fought back a smile not wanting to appear disrespectful, returning my attention to her present diatribe.
Like so many I have met, Mrs. Teague had definite ideas about money and profit. Her work, in her mind was valuable but to assign a price tag would be blasphemous. She had accumulated it in the course of her work, and as such it was created for “free” and should be offered for the same price. Yet, she would need a site that not only housed the information but a searchable database. She would also need to market the site so that “the people” could find it and access the free information. None of that would be free. She wanted to spend very little money to offer it, did not want any contact information on the site, and wanted no questions or follow up discussion from those who downloaded the information. She simply wanted people to come, download what they needed and go away.
The “money grubbing” organizations in her niche offered people a variety of services and support in addition to some free information. They charged a fee but they also provided something in return. Mrs. Teague failed to make the connection and simply saw profiting as evil. Her time and expertise in collecting the data would indeed be valuable to users, who would gladly pay to access already bundled information that would have taken them a huge amount of time and effort to gather on their own.
So, was Mrs. Teague wrong in wanting to give the information away? What would you have advised?
In the next post we’ll dig a little deeper into our attitudes about money and discuss the options in this scenario. Please join the discussion by adding your comments below.